The construction of the tower house castle reflected the turbulent times in which C16th people had to survive. The tower house itself served as the noble family’s residence, and it was surrounded by a range of features which were essential for defence. Of course the peasants outside the castle had to hope that, in times of crisis, they would be able to gain protection inside the castle wall. Throughout what must have been a difficult history since the mid C16th, the castle has been continuously occupied by the Russell and Macpherson-Grant families.
The exact year of the first castle on the site is unknown, but "1546" is carved into a stone lintel in one of today’s bedrooms. As with all castles, Ballindalloch has been expanded and updated, according to the needs of each generation of the family. Needs and tastes constantly changed. Ballindalloch Castle showed how a building moved from a fortified castle, necessary in unpredictable C16th Scotland, to a very liveable Victorian home.
Late Victorian castle, as it looks today
What happened to the original tower house? After it was plundered and burned by James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, it was restored in 1645. Extensions were added in 1770. The Castle grounds suffered severely from the 1829 floods, when the mansion house itself was inundated on the ground floor to a metre deep. So in 1850 there were more changes by the architect Thomas MacKenzie: the C19th wings added to the original ground plan. At a time when the building might have become more modern, it was actually given a MORE castellated appearance, with the addition of gabled dormer windows, stair turrets with conical roofs and decorative panels. The Hall, with its grand staircase and its unusual umbrella design and fan vaulting, was part of the 1850s renovations. So were the elegant drawing room, dining room, library and nursery.
The Taste for Travel blog has given us a nice analysis of how the estate came down through the current female descendant of the family. And why she made changes in 1965.
The castle grounds contain sublime late C19th gardens which have been retained, as photographed in the blogs Travels with my camera in Scotland and Beyond and Holidays in Glenlivet and Speyside, Scotland. The rivers Spey and Avon flow through the grounds, offering excellent sport which can be seen in Ballindalloch fishing commission trip in Bamboomouse blog. The Aberdeen Angus cattle are a core part of the estate.